Latin America

Why a dead Argentinean prosecutor has gone from hero to villain

Discovery of secret US bank account has ruined reputation of the late Alberto Nisman Government launches offensive against investigator who formally accused the president

Carlos E. Cué
A protest in Buenos Aires held in the Nisman case.
A protest in Buenos Aires held in the Nisman case.ALEJANDRO PAGNI (AFP)

Less than two months ago, 400,000 people marched in Buenos Aires to show their support for Alberto Nisman, the Argentinean prosecutor who in January filed cover-up charges against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and was found dead days later.

His supporters held a massive rally in which they carried placards and wore t-shirts bearing the slogan: “We are all Nisman.”

But now Nisman has gone from hero to villain after it was revealed that the 51-year-old investigator held a secret bank account in the United States with his mother, sister and best friend as co-signers.

Nisman’s former wife is engaged in a legal fight to find the truth about the prosecutor’s mysterious death

Meanwhile, his former wife, Sandra Arroyo Salgado is engaged in a legal fight to clear up the mysterious death. Arroyo claims that her former husband was murdered while forensic prosecutor Vivian Fein has not ruled out suicide.

Nisman’s body was found in his apartment on January 18, the day before he was expected to testify in Congress about the charges he filed four days earlier against the president and other government officials.

He alleged that they tried to whitewash his investigation into the 1994 terrorist bombing of the AMIA Jewish center by secretly negotiating a trade pact with Iran. Several top Iranians were charged in an attack that killed 85 people, but no one has been brought to justice.

The government continues to deny his allegations that the president, her foreign minister and other officials offered impunity for the Iranian suspects in exchange for an oil-for-grain deal with Tehran.

Several top Iranians were charged in the Jewish center attack but no one has been brought to justice

Nisman’s ex-wife, who has carried out her own private inquiry into his death, has accused Fein of “not being objective” in her forensic investigation.

At the same time, the case took a totally new angle – in the government’s favor – when the Argentinean press published photos of Nisman with different younger women taken from his cellphone. A Buenos Aires judge is investigating police officers who are suspected of leaking the images.

But Nisman’s reputation as a serious prosecutor was further damaged when investigators announced they had discovered that he held a secret account in New York with Diego Lagomarsino – his best friend who has acknowledged giving him the gun that purportedly fired the bullet that killed Nisman.

Prosecutors are now looking at charging Nisman’s mother and sister – co-signers on the account – along with Lagomarsino for tax evasion. Lagomarsino, a computer expert who worked privately for Nisman, is already facing a weapons violation.

More information
Argentina asks US to focus on Jewish center bombing during Iranian talks
“Argentinean prosecutor was murdered,” claims his ex-wife
Tensions heighten in Argentina after presidential inquiry reactivated
Police raid home of computer expert who loaned gun to dead prosecutor
Argentinean court upholds dismissal of cover-up charges against president

In Buenos Aires, posters have popped up on the streets duplicating the cellphone image of Nisman with a young model in Miami along with the question: “Are we all Nisman?”

The government has quickly jumped on the band wagon to help turn the public tide.

“Nisman used public money to go out with minas [women],” said Cabinet chief Aníbal Fernández, using a popular Argentinean expression. “Never before has this country seen a scoundrel like this.”

In some neighborhoods in the capital, support for Nisman and repudiation for the Fernández de Kirchner government still exists, judging by the street posters and graffiti.

Argentinean judicial sources consulted for this article believe that the case is becoming more complex because of the many investigative errors committed at the crime scene. It will be difficult to determine the truth behind Nisman’s death because of Fein’s initial decisions and the movements by police officers inside his apartment after his body was found in the bathroom, they said.

The Argentinean press published photos of Nisman with younger women taken from his cellphone

Nisman is not the only one being attacked by the government. Once considered the most powerful intelligence officer in Argentina, Antonio Stiuso is now at the center of a massive judicial investigation into alleged money laundering and illegal business activities.

Fernández de Kirchner has said publicly that she believes that Stiuso was the mastermind behind Nisman’s charges. The country’s most feared spy had direct contact with the prosecutor.

Stiuso has now fled Argentina because he was afraid authorities would take him into custody.

He was subpoenaed to appear Monday for questioning at Casa Rosada presidential palace but never showed up.

Once close to the president and her late husband, former President Néstor Kirchner, Stiuso is public enemy number one, as his successor Óscar Parilli made clear last week.

“Unfortunately, during the past 30 years, democracy has had to co-exist with this man,” Parilli said. “In 1983 [the year the military dictatorship fell], no one did anything, and this man continued to gain much power. No one was capable of canning him.”

Stiuso fled Argentina because he was afraid authorities would take him into custody

Meanwhile, the government’s offensive continues.

On Tuesday, Parilli called a last-minute news conference to announce that the government had filed charges against Stiuso for abusing his public position and using the intelligence agency for his clandestine operations in connection with Nisman and linked to the 1994 AMIA case.

Parilli also accused Nisman and Stiuso of not doing their jobs properly.

“In 20 years, no one has been found guilty. Nisman’s and Stiuso’s work has produced not one single result.”

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